Editors note: this article was updated in 2017 with an updated cost of living for a couple in Medellín.
Early last year I covered my cost of living for a couple living in Medellín, Colombia. The exchange rate has changed recently making it now even cheaper to live in Medellín in terms of US dollars.
This post provides an update with my cost of living for a couple living in Medellín, Colombia over the past three months.
The relatively low cost of living in Medellín is one of the reasons I started living in the city after I discovered it several years ago. The nearly perfect weather and the quality of life, for the cost, are very challenging to beat.
I am often asked how much money it costs to live in Medellín, so over the past three months I tracked my expenses.
Dave also previously shared his costs of living in 2013 as a single guy living in a shared apartment in Medellín.
Improved Exchange Rate
The recently improved exchange rate for the Colombian peso makes it much cheaper to live in Medellín in terms of US dollars.
The Colombian peso exchange rate has been in a range from 2,880 to 3,356 pesos to the US dollar over the past three months, which is the highest range it has been during a three-month period over the past 10 years.
A Word About My Standard of Living
First I would like to share some insight into my standard of living, because more than anything, this is what will affect a person’s cost of living in Medellín.
I have a job in the US with location flexibility, which means I can do my job from anywhere in the world with a fast Internet connection and telephone. I have now been living in Medellín for over five years.
I live with my Colombian wife in Sabaneta (a southern suburb of Medellín) in a three-bedroom apartment. This cost of living post details our costs for a couple living together in Medellín.
While living in Colombia, I also typically travel six to ten times each year for my job with my company paying all my travel expenses.
* The exchange rate fluctuates each day; my average exchange rate over the past three months was 3,274 pesos to the USD, which is the exchange rate used in this post – except for apartment rental which was prepaid for a year in July last year at an exchange rate of 2,685 pesos to the USD.
Our Monthly Cost of Living
Apartment rent = 1,350,000 pesos ($503)
Apartment rent is our biggest monthly expense. I have been renting unfurnished apartments while living Medellín for over five years. My initial experience in renting apartments in Medellín was documented in a four part series: first part is here, second part is here, third part is here and fourth part is here.
We currently live in a three-bedroom apartment in Sabaneta, which we moved into in July last year. It is located within walking distance to Parque Sabaneta. Our current apartment specifications include:
- Three bedrooms, two bathrooms, about 110 square meters (1,184 square feet)
- Kitchen with granite countertops, oven, and gas cooktop
- Gas water heater (tankless)
- Upper floor in a high-rise building, with two balconies
- Pool, sauna and small gym in building
- 24×7 security
- Estrato 4 neighborhood
I prepaid for a year of rent last year that is good until the end of June this year. The exchange rate for the funds I used to prepay last year was 2,685 pesos to the USD, which makes our monthly cost $503 per month.
I exchanged sufficient funds when the exchange rate was over 3,300 pesos to the USD to pay our next year of rent at about $400 per month.
Groceries = 695,424 pesos ($212)
Groceries are our second biggest expense in Medellín as a couple living together. We cook at home frequently and normally shop at an Exito grocery store, which is conveniently located a 10-minute walk from our apartment.
About every six weeks we also shop at PriceSmart, which has good prices for several items purchased in bulk.
Our monthly costs for groceries in terms of pesos have dropped recently as we have also started shopping at a nearby D1 Tienda for some staples and also a local butcher shop, with both having lower prices than Exito.
This category also includes our expenses for drugstore items like toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner.
Dining = 474,600 pesos ($145)
We eat out at nice restaurants in Medellín typically a few times each month. Several times each month when we are too tired to go out or cook, we also order takeout (domicillio) from nearby restaurants or fast food places.
We have found that the restaurants in Sabaneta in general are less expensive than in some other areas in Medellín like El Poblado or Laureles.
Each month we also sometimes eat lunch at small restaurants near our apartment, which typically have inexpensive Colombian food. Set lunches (menu del dia) in these small restaurants typically costs just $2 – $4 per person.
Medical = 473,950 pesos ($145)
Our medical costs during the year include medical insurance for my wife and me, glasses and contacts I purchased during the year plus a few trips to the dentist over the year as well as drugs purchased at drugstores.
My medical insurance covers me while I am in Colombia and my company offers medical insurance in the US and also when I travel for business.
Gifts = 381,382 pesos ($116)
This category includes gifts purchased for Christmas. Spending in this category is typically heavier for us in November and December than other months of the year.
Miscellaneous = 332,767 pesos ($102)
This general category is miscellaneous stuff, which includes some small things we purchased for our new apartment in Sabaneta, laundry expenses plus an Amazon Prime membership.
Several times each year I buy some things on Amazon that are much cheaper or difficult to find in Colombia. Many items purchased on Amazon will ship for free to Miami where I have a mailing service that forwards to Medellín for a relatively low cost.
Education = 242,000 pesos ($74)
This includes costs for an English class that my Colombian wife is currently enrolled in.
Ground transportation = 183,267 pesos ($56)
This includes costs for using the metro, buses and taxies.
We live within easy walking distance to Parque Sabaneta and Aves Maria mall with an Exito and Cinamas Procinal movie theater. There are many small shops, restaurants and bars within walking distance from our apartment.
In front of our apartment we can catch a bus that costs 1,800 pesos to go to the Sabaneta metro station in about 10 minutes.
We can also catch a bus in front of Exito that costs 2,000 pesos to go to the Santafé mall in El Poblado, taking about 30 minutes during non-rush hour; or a bus that costs 1,800 pesos to go Mayorca mall with a recently opened major expansion and takes 15 minutes.
Triple-play Internet/TV/phone services = 137,203 pesos ($42)
We have triple-play services provided by Claro with 10-MB Internet, several hundred TV channels including some in English and free local landline telephone calls.
We pay a lower rate for triple-play services in an estrato 4 neighborhood than would be found in estrato 5 or 6 neighborhoods.
Clothing = 125,200 pesos ($38)
I rarely buy clothes as I have quite a few from the US when I moved to Colombia. This category over the past three months has been for a few clothing items my wife purchased.
Entertainment = 109,367 pesos ($33)
This includes expenses for going to movie theaters, bars, discotecas and concerts. We typically incur entertainment expenses a couple times each month.
Utilities (electric, gas and water) = 109,211 pesos ($33)
Utility services are provided by EPM, the local utility in Medellín. There is really no need for heating or cooling with the climate in Medellín, which results in relatively low utility bills. We also live in an estrato 4 neighborhood, which has lower utility rates than are found in estrato 5 or 6 neighborhoods.
In general our utility services have been cheaper in Sabaneta than when we lived in a smaller apartment in Belén.
Mail services = 88,322 ($27)
I use the Mail Boxes Etc. Ebox service in Medellín. This Ebox service provides a mailbox in Medellin linked to a mailing service in Miami. This is the solution I use to reliably receive US mail (letters and packages) in Medellín.
With this service, I get a mailing address in Miami and any mail received at this address in Miami is forwarded to Medellín. This service costs $14 per month and includes a 1-kilogram package for free each month.
In the United States I use a US Global Mail mailbox as my primary mailing address, which costs $12.50 per month and permits me to view items I have received online.
Every six weeks or so I typically send the mail received in my mailbox in the US to my address in Miami that is forwarded and shows up in Medellin about a week later.
Cell phone services = 37,667 pesos ($12)
This is the cost for cellular services from Claro for two cell phones. My wife used to have a post-paid plan that cost 42,000 pesos per month but she switched to a pre-paid plan. So we both now have pay-as-you-go phones that we recharge each month with 10,000 or 20,000 pesos.
Pet = 31,167 pesos ($10)
In December 2013, we bought a Pomeranian puppy so we have ongoing pet expenses of dog food and vet services.
In general we find that vet services and prices in pet stores in Sabaneta are cheaper than in Belén where we used to live.
Hair care = 9,667 pesos ($3)
It only costs me 9,000 pesos (<$3) including tip to get my haircut at a barbershop near our apartment. My wife hasn’t had her hair done recently.
When I looked at our costs of living in 2014, I included three categories, which were not incurred by us in the last three months. From October to December we didn’t take any vacation trips so we didn’t have this category.
I previously included the computer and electronics category but we didn’t buy any computer or electronics items in October through December.
I also previously had visa and cedula expenses that were once a year expenses. I now have a visa and cedula good for three years so I won’t incur this expense again until 2018.
The Bottom Line
With the greatly improved exchange rate and our lower spending in some categories, over the past three months we averaged spending less than $1,600 per month for our cost of living in Medellín for a couple.
This is down from around $3,000 per month when I looked at our spending in 2014 and down from nearly $1,900 per month early last year. But our standard of living hasn’t changed other than not traveling as frequently on vacation.
Our cost of living has dropped by 17% in terms of Colombian pesos since 2014 even though we now live in a much larger apartment. So even if the exchange rate hadn’t changed at all our cost of living would still be lower than two years ago.
We are not really seeing much impact from the increased inflation in Colombia, with inflation in Colombia of 6.77% in 2015 and inflation of 3.66% in 2014. We have found is possible to change your behaviors and shopping locations to avoid most impacts of inflation.
I don’t know how much longer the exchange rate will stay at its current high rate. However, I believe our spending will likely average between $1,600 to $1,700 per month for most of the year if the exchange rate stays above 3,000 pesos to the USD. Later this year we plan to go on a couple vacation trips.
Keep in mind it is certainly possible to live in Medellín for cheaper than we do. Apartments are available in Medellín for much lower costs but these aren’t necessarily located as conveniently as our apartment nor have all the features.
The bottom line is that Medellín has a wide range of options for apartments available in a big range of prices (from less than $200 to well over $2,000 per month) that can meet the needs of a wide range of renters.
For a couple living on a shoestring budget, I believe this can easily be done in Medellín with the improved exchange rate for less than $1,300 per month.
Or for a couple living in a top of the line luxury penthouse apartment in El Poblado, the most expensive neighborhood, this would likely result in a cost of living exceeding $4,000 per month.